WRA hosts speaker on cancer vaccine research

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Dr. Ritika Jaini, a project scientist and lead researcher in the Cleveland Clinic's work to develop a vaccine for breast cancer, spoke to the Western Reserve Academy community in March.

During her talk in the Chapel, Jaini highlighted the work being done on the vaccine, which the research team has been developing for almost 11 years. The vaccine is currently being reviewed by the Food and Drug Administration for first-in-human clinical trials.

"The ideas (for the vaccine) are based on a hypothesis - if I target something in the breast then I can target a particular tumor," Jaini explained. "The idea starts as one that is considered 'most probable to fail,' but the more tests you run the more you see you are going in the right direction. That is why it takes so long, but it is satisfying.

"We have done some great work and have promising results with our present treatments, but we still don't have a cure. Prevention, rather than treatment, is the way to go. We really need something that can prevent breast cancer."

As part of her visit, Jaini received a check for $3,000 from REACH members Ann Yu '14 (Hudson), Hannah McKenzie '15 (Hudson), Katie Chlysta '15 (Hudson), Morgan Lightcap '14 and Angelle Henkelmann '14, which came from the sales of Crush-O-Grams. The money will help with the research team's biggest challenge - funding.

"In 2010 we wrote 25 grants and none were funded," Jaini said. "We received money from the National Institutes of Health for two-and-a-half years, but right now we are running on just philanthropic money."

In addition to the breast cancer vaccine, Clinic researchers, including WRA biology teacher Robert Aguilar, are working to develop vaccines for ovarian, testicular and prostate cancer.

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